Great Tips for Teaching Vocabulary

flickr photo by CollegeDegrees360 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Many teachers find it challenging to create strong lessons for vocabulary development. This Edutopia piece by Rebecca Alber does an excellent job outlining various ways to help students widen their vocabulary.

“Every Monday my seventh grade English teacher would have us copy a list of 25 words she’d written on the board. We’d then look up the dictionary definitions and copy those down. For homework, we’d re-write each word seven times.

Good, now you know it. Test on Friday and never for those 25 words to be seen again. Poof. Old school, yes. Mundane task, yes. Did it work? I don’t remember. Probably not.

Copying definitions from the dictionary we would probably all agree is not an effective way to learn vocabulary. Passive learning hardly ever is. It’s just often the way we learned, and as teachers, we sometimes fall back on using these ways when teaching rather than taking a good look at student data, the latest research, and then trying something new.

The truth is, and the research shows, students need multiple and various exposures to a word before they fully understand that word and can apply it. They need also to learn words in context, not stand alone lists that come and go each week. Of course the way we learn words in context, or implicitly, is by reading, then reading some more. (This is why every classroom should have a killer classroom library stocked full of high-interest, age appropriate books.)” 

Read the entire piece here.


One thought on “Great Tips for Teaching Vocabulary

  1. This week I’m beginning to teach vocabulary using the LINCS Vocabulary Strategy for my students. After reading this article, I feel like I have a better mindset of how to approach my vocabulary instruction this week and in the future. I found it interesting to have the students choose their own words and thought about that with helping my students’ vocabulary grow. Although, I’m going to have my students work in pairs to read guided books and wondering how and when to implement them choosing their own words to rank in their own books too. I think that I going to first go with whole class vocabulary instruction by having the students learn two words per day into a “vocabulary book” and then review in self-chosen creative activity on Fridays. Even for selecting words for my whole class, I need to think of using the Tier 2 words that are are essential across content domains and will likely be seen frequently in real life situations. When we start reading specific texts as a whole class, then I select Tier 3 words that are more content and academic words for that domain. Also, the Marzano Six Step Vocabulary Strategy is already used at my school in students’ science classes and something that I will consider using in the future to teach vocabulary through graphic organizers and practice games. I appreciate the linked resources to look into and help guide my vocabulary instruction with working with my own resource classes and inclusion classes this school year. Thank you for helping me find some good ideas to start with to effectively begin teaching vocabulary!

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